With all of the build up to E3, Sony did try to sneak the downfall of The Matrix Online past us. As an avid fan of The Matrix Trilogy and a long time player of MxO myself, the news that MxO was going to be unplugged definitely served as a downer for me.
I was made aware of the sad news when the following email appeared in my Inbox.
RE: IMPORTANT INFORMATION ABOUT THE MATRIX ONLINE – THE MATRIX ONLINE SERVICE WILL END ON JULY 31, 2009
Dear MxO Subscriber,
We want to inform you that on June 1, 2009, Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) will suspend commercial services of THE MATRIX ONLINE (MxO). However, SOE will continue to operate the game service and players will still be able to play MxO through July 31, 2009. As of June 1, 2009, SOE will no longer offer customer support or provide updates for MxO, and active subscribers with accounts in good standing will not be billed after that date. MxO subscribers who have prepaid subscription time that extends their subscription period past June 1, 2009 will receive a pro-rated refund for any such pre-paid excess subscription payments*.
Such refunds are expected to be issued by October 1, 2009. We welcome those active MxO subscribers in good standing to play one or all of the following SOE massively-multiplayer online PC games at full paid subscriber status at no cost between June 1, 2009 and July 31, 2009 (subject to the terms and conditions described below) using the same Station Account you use to subscribe to MxO**: Free Realms™, EverQuest®, EverQuest® II, and Star Wars Galaxies™.
To access and download the game software for EverQuest, EverQuest II, or Star Wars Galaxies, begin by downloading Station Launcher here for free: http://launcher.station.sony.com/. To initiate the download of Station Launcher simply click on the “DOWNLOAD BETA” button. Once the download is complete, Station Launcher will serve as your one stop shop for access to all the identified online games except Free Realms, which can be found at www.freerealms.com.
We value having you in our player community and hope that you will find a new home in one of these other SOE games during this trial period. During the last two weeks that MxO will be available, we intend to initiate a world-ending event and invite our active MxO subscribers with accounts in good standing to participate in bringing Mega City down together.
We will go out with the same level of dramatic in-game event that has kept this game exciting over the years. Get ready to jack in and become part of the final chapter of the story!
We appreciate your loyalty and commitment and look forward to seeing you in another SOE game.
Sony Online Entertainment
The email was sent the week of Thursday, May 28th (the day I received my notification). I personally was a little ticked at SOE for giving such little notice about this, a whole 3 days, but I was at least relieved to see that people would have until July 31st to truly say goodbye to The Matrix. This would probably be a bigger gaming news story if SOE didn’t sneak it out knowing the shadow of E3 would loom over this sad information and go mostly unnoticed.
Along with the two months of final gameplay it appears that there will also be a goodbye event put together by the remaining staff, according to Daniel “Walrus” Myers quote from the Gamer Limit’s news article on the same topic.
The team will also be whipping up an end-of-the-world event. It won’t be quite the same as having over 100 developers in the game as Agents like when we ended beta, but we have 4 years of tricks up our sleeve. It’ll be a chance to revisit all the things that make MxO the memorable experience it is. And how could we pull the plug without crushing everyone’s RSI just one more time?”
That quote, and subsequent comparison to the MxO Beta finale, got me on a big train of thought about the path MxO took that more than likely lead to its ultimate downfall. Now while MxO lived a pretty healthy 4-year life – longer than I honestly thought it would last – it should have lived a lot longer and a lot healthier, rather than limping through its final year and a half like a poor old dog.
MxO was, and in my opinion still is, the best MMO alternative for people who didn’t want the fantasy style of World of Warcraft / Guild Wars or the space ship filled EVE Online. MxO’s entire world was set in the “present day” with all of the fun gun-fu that the movies had and was the best game instalment of the Matrix universe (MxO never had a “real world” plain of existence outside of some loading screens so everything was set in the Matrix, which was built to resemble the present day). However, key mistakes along the way pretty much doomed MxO from ever realising the full potential it could have had.
– Warner Bros. And Monolith gave up on the title far too fast.
MxO was released March 22, 2005 in North America and Sony acquired rights to the title from Monolith June 17, 2005. After just 4 months of retail sales the founding team apparently gave up on the title. In my opinion, this is way too early to give up on any MMORPG title since these kinds of games usually take a bit to get going, WoW didn’t start off as the juggernaut it is today either. The early switch in ownership I believe was the overall biggest blow to the growth of MxO. The change forced everything else into a slowdown and pretty much had a ripple effect that caused most of the other issues that developed in MxO.
– Removing the main characters of the movies.
You can’t really bring back Trinity, Agent Smith, and Neo into the storyline since all three of them died in the Matrix Revolutions (although the end of Revolutions and the opening storyline cutscene of MxO strongly hinted that Neo survived) but there was a great remaining cast of characters in the Matrix Universe that progressively, and with seemingly little fanfare, got phased out of the storyline in favor of new characters that players weren’t familiar with and couldn’t relate to.
- Morpheus, a normal human who’s fought Agents hand to hand and lived to tell about it, was gunned down in a back alley and put up seemingly no resistance. Although Morpheus’ apparently survived the attack, his ability to enter the Matrix was crippled so for all real purposes he was eliminated (and a few years later replaced with a program that was a clone of Morpheus).
- Niobe, Morpheus’ on-and-off woman, was injured while hunting down Morpheus’ killer and never really recovered from the physical and emotional losses – so she’s out of the picture.
- Ghost is relegated to being Niobe’s silent sidekick who pretty much “retires” for some bullshit spiritual reason.
- The Kid (yes, the annoying “Neo, I believe” character from the sequels) becomes the leader of an entire Zion sub faction called “E Pluribus Neo” before vanishing for no true reason and proceeds to do jack squat.
- The Merovingian and The Architect really did little during the overall arc of MxO. They only seemed to show up to simply move storylines along and provide some lip service for the game. They don’t even really seem to be in control of their respective factions (Exiles and Machines) but rather figurehead leaders, since players don’t directly report to either of these characters and those direct reports always seemed to have their own agendas and not that of these two big wigs.
- Morpheus’ operator, Link, fulfills the role of tutorial guide and then disappears and is never heard from again.
- Seti, the “I made a rainbow for Neo!” girl from Revolutions gets abducted by some rebel programs and not much happens to her beyond that.
- Seraph takes a similar role as Ghost, becoming the sidekick bodyguard to The Oracle (although it could be argued that’s all his role was in the films anyway). After Seti is captured by some rebel Machine programs, Seraph goes to save her and ends up falling in some sort of corrupted pool of Matrix code. When he reemerges from it he’s acting all wonky and different, and when he comes to he just kind of vanishes.
- The Oracle just kind of sits around letting everything go by, pushing along other characters storylines as necessary, until she was ultimately killed off not long ago in the game’s storyline. That’s right… The Oracle, the character who pretty much created ‘The One’ anomaly and pushed some of the biggest chunks of storyline, was killed off.
I honestly thought the writers must have absolutely hated the remaining cast of The Matrix Trilogy or something, because they constantly seemed to go out of their way to phase out existing characters in favor of newer ones. The cast overall basically made me, as a player, feel distant from the main storyline and made the entire game feel like a Matrix side story instead of the continuation it was meant to be.
– General lack of effort and loss of Live Event/LESIG teams.
When MxO first launched there was an entire team dedicated to playing the game as Agents and other key characters as a means to further in-game events and directly interact with players, giving players the feeling that they truly were making a difference. After the SOE buyout of the game the LESIG team was reduced to playing minor characters before eventually being phased out and replaced with a Live Event Team (LET) comprised purely of volunteers.
Along with the LESIG changes that took place, the use of full-motion-video cutscenes at the start of every new chapter and sub-chapter of the game was cut off shortly there after. FMVs were replaced with storyboard like black and white cutscenes, like the ones in Max Payne 2 or inFAMOUS except not as good. SOE’s explanation was that the Matrix movies were all drawn up using a nearly identical method before their actual filming. Sony… its called storyboarding and lots of movies use it, and all movies actually film things instead of just releasing the storyboard.
– Too much politics and not enough cyberpunk.
The first movie was pretty cut and dry; Man versus Machines in a virtual world that had a modern and cyberpunk feel to it. Basically if you could make the movie Hackers anything better than the shitfest it was, you’d get The Matrix. Okay so the sequels added a 3rd faction to the deal in the form of the Merovingian’s exiles, big whoop it made sense. All three of these groups pretty much hated the others and wanted control, and there was the whole Man versus Machine war still going on.
The storyline in MxO pretty much turned everything into a pseudo political debate. Take the Merovingian’s speech about causality and over think it way too much and that’s what the game’s story kind of delved into. Humans can’t do ‘Thing A’ because ‘Thing A’ will cause the machines to do ‘Things B and C’ which would break The Truce and cause a giant shitstorm resulting in the exiles doing ‘Thing D’ and having ‘Things E-Q’ basically ruin everything.
All of this leads me to ask, what happened to “They got Morpheus so lets get all of the guns, shoot all the dudes, blow up their place, and go back to the ship for lunch”? I guess before Neo’s Truce and Matrix Revolutions the Matrix Universe was pretty much the wild west, and the post Truce universe turned everything into C-Span.
– You could never be an equal to a storyline character.
I remember one of the big things about MxO’s add campaign being the ability to interact and fight alongside, or against, characters from the movie trilogy. Well, this would have been all fine and dandy if it wasn’t for the fact that the main story characters were allowed to exceed the maximum level cap of the game.
Really, how am I supposed to stand toe to toe with Morpheus when I can only be a level 50 and he can be up into the mid 60′s with his level? The only people I think should have been allowed to exceed this cap were Agents and Neo.
– Stupid. And I mean stupid. Storyline decisions.
This is kind of an amalgamation of the political mumbo and character jumbo, but the storyline writers for MxO quite honestly thought up of some stupid shit. One instance was when an operative found some weird chemical compound in the Matrix that gave people crazy green eyes and new powers. Ultimately this storyline resulted in one character having laser eyes – yes, fucking laser eyes, I’m talking full out Cyclops optic blast stuff or Superman’s heat vision.
This stuff will be perfectly fine once DC Universe Online ships, but not in the goddamn Matrix. Or another story where apparently the core of the Zion organization somehow managed to build an entire second city of Zion deep inside the earth without the Machines ever knowing, oh and the city was rigged with enough EMP charges to hold off a machine offensive… um, why didn’t they just rig said charges around their original city and just correct a few of the design flaws with the original Zion?
– SOE’s takeover and other not really relevant changes.
I said it earlier, Sony’s takeover of the game slowed down things in general for MxO. But around the same time as the SOE takeover of the game, a lot of people were discovering that the then current combat system was rather flawed and needed tweaking. Instead of just fixing what was broken and adding to that, Sony’s team felt it was necessary to implement a completely friggin new combat system in the game (which looked oddly reminiscent of the Star Wars Galaxies system) which took time away from game and live event maintenance – again bringing MxO to a crawl. In short, they spent way too much time on the Combat Revision 2.0 when they should have just been fixing the original system. Instead of fixing a chair with one broken leg, they pretty much said “fuck it” and bought a brand new chair.
I will provide a eulogy for the end of the games run. The Matrix Online, my personal favorite MMORPG, I bid you adieu and hope that you rest in peace. You were a great investment and you had grand ideas. It’s a shame that luck and intelligent leadership simply could never bounce your way, for if they did you would have been facing a much different destiny than you ultimately have before you now.
MxO, you saw a great path ahead of you and at moments saw glimpses of what you could have become but as Morpheus himself once said, ”You will find out, just as I did, that there is a difference between knowing the path and walking the path.” I will fire up MxO again for those final days, as a fan of the franchise since day one I owe it to myself and to you. I’ve seen how deep the rabbit hole went, and I’m disappointed to know that I must eventually leave Wonderland.
I have dreamed a dream, but now that dream is gone from me. -Morpheus